2004's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
" was a modest success upon release, but, as is often the case with offbeat films that dare to move beyond the expected mainstream, it has grown in stature and reverence over the last nine years. Highly quotable while marrying charm with satirical absurdity, the original pic
has left fans clamoring for a follow-up. It would be wonderful to say that "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" was worth the while of all involved, but this sequel, once more directed by Adam McKay (2010's "The Other Guys
"), is a paltry shadow of its predecessor that ramps up the camera mugging while providing an unconvincing case for its own existence. Fond nostalgia can only take a person so far, and this continuation basically just repeats the former film's beatsalbeit, with deteriorating inspiration.
Married news anchors Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) have risen in the ranks since last they were seen, collectively headed for the big time in New York City. When veteran nightly newsman Mack Harken (Harrison Ford) promotes Veronica to be his successor and fires Ron in the same breath, it is a career-altering turn of events that breaks Ron and Veronica's marriage apart. Six months later, Ron is self-imploding as a San Diego SeaWorld dolphin show announcer when Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) recruits him to return to Manhattan and join the team at upstart 24-hour news channel GNN. It is the perfect opportunity to get the old gang back togethershamed sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner), hotshot reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), and screwball weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell)but in order to stay on board at their new jobs, they must bring in the ratings and prove themselves to commanding network head Linda Jackson (Meagan Good).
"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" isn't without a handful of outrageous zingersit is scarcely funnier than when Ron accompanies Linda to a family dinner and makes a disastrous attempt to bridge the race-relations gap by calling them "pipe-hittin' bitches"but writer-director Adam McKay and co-scripter Will Ferrell (2008's "Step Brothers
") have failed to juggle their much-loved cast of returning characters within a story that they can all play a memorable part in. With the exception of a five-scene romantic subplot between Brick and equally daft co-worker Chani (Kristen Wiig), he, Champ and Brian are so peripherally handled after their introductory scenes they could have been snipped entirely from the final cut with almost no bearing on the rest of the film. Steve Carell (2013's "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
"), so likably quirky as Brick the first time around, plays the role here as a barely functioning village idiot, preening way too blatantly for laughs that usually do not see fruition. As Champ and Brian, David Koechner (2012's "Hit and Run
") and Paul Rudd (2013's "Admission
") deserve far better than the lazy, unfulfilling material handed to them.
Embodying Ron Burgundy with every fiber of his polyester suits, Will Ferrell is the front-and-center highlight stuck in a threadbare screenplay he wrote for himself. Ferrell knows how to ad-lib ("By the hymen of Olivia Newton-John!" is one of his typical exclamations), but there is no room for Ron to grow, develop or change beyond the arc he was given in the original. Whether he's slaying the flute, flubbing his on-air readings of the teleprompter, or fighting off various competitive news station gangs (each one led by a cameoing A-lister or two), it's all been seen before, and better. His chemistry with the strong-willed Veronica, such a saucy, effervescent presence in the previous "Anchorman"in many ways, Ron's equalis whittled down to a virtual afterthought. Christina Applegate (2011's "Hall Pass
") gamely comes back, but her part has been disappointingly downgraded to that of semi-harpy love interest. As the no-nonsense Linda Jackson, Meagan Good (2011's "Jumping the Broom
") is put to better use, testing out her comedic flair and timing while essaying a progressive female character (especially for the 1980 time period in which it's set) who is refreshingly strong without being a back-stabber or witch. She makes it exceedingly clear that she knows what she wants, and she is never vilified for it, either. Finally, Kristen Wiig (2013's "Girl Most Likely
") is an oddball delight as Chani. If she had been given the opportunity to expand beyond a conceptual caricature, her spirited work might not have been so in vain.
If "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
" was rough around the edges, intermittently struggling to find a narrative focus while filling the space with jokes that fell flat and others that deliciously hit their target, it was positively a beacon of vision and control in comparison to the loose, rambling, finally patience-testing "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." Director Adam McKay has a little something to say about the evolution of television journalism and the drive to sensationalize news stories for ratings, but this minor sardonic edge gets lost within a gregarious second-string sequel that tries too hard to be like the first one while not trying hard enough to carve out a spot for itself as a separate entity. As much as the fervent "Anchorman" supporters might have wanted a sequel, the redundant "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" sees to it that Ron Burgundy is kind of no longer a big deal.